How Well Did Wargaming Handle the SirFoch World of Tanks Criticism?

By Jeff Francis
World of Tanks criticism by SirFoch

There are times when you just have to really love the world of online gaming. You would think that the virtual battles taking place in mmo games would be intense, but there are times when they pale to the fights being waged on the web between gamers and developers. A perfect case in point is the recent brouhaha over SirFoch, a World of Tanks community contributor, who brutally savaged the game's latest premium tank, the Chrysler K GF, in a YouTube video. Wargaming responded in several ways. First, they removed SirFoch from the community contributor program. They then demanded that the video be taken down or else they would have it removed for copyright reasons. There's been a back-and-forth and many players have voiced their own opinion on social media. How well did Wargaming handle the SirFoch World of Tanks criticism?

Quick note: we are showing the original video where SirFoch made his criticisms (this video was uploaded by someone to a different channel) as well as another one made by SirFoch about the entire situation and escalation. Please note that both videos feature strong language.

So what was the SirFoch World of Tanks criticism in the first place? Well, the gist of the matter is that SirFoch criticized the current direction of the game (which you can play for free here) by highlighting the Chrysler K GF premium tank. The new tank features no weak spots, which would necessitate players having to purchase premium ammo in order to have a chance of defeating the Chrysler K GF. SirFoch was complaining that the game was becoming pay-to-win as the developers were releasing overpowered tanks, which then forces players to spend money in order to compete. He says in the video, "But in the collision model, what do we have? No machine gun ports. Why? I don't know because how are we going to make money if we don't force everybody to spend premium ammo and buy premium tanks and buy a fucking premium account? We are greedy fucks at Wargaming. Yay!" Needless to say, Wargaming was not happy, and a community manager, Zoltan "Ph3lan" Sipos, got in touch with SirFoch over Discord and informed him that he was being dropped from the World of Tanks community contributor program. He was also told to remove the video from YouTube, which SirFoch complied with.

So how good or bad did Wargaming handle this World of Tanks criticism by SirFoch? To be honest, there's a little bit of good and a whole lot of bad. Let's take the good bit first. In the first place, Wargaming has every right to remove anybody from their World of Tanks community contributor program. They felt that the criticism leveled by SirFoch about the mmo fps was not done in a constructive or helpful manner. As such, they felt that he was not representing the game in a good way. This is a fair point on their part. The second facet of any good handling was the statement released by Wargaming a few days after the incident blew up. In the statement, they said that it is the official position of the company to not take any copyright action against opinions based upon content that had been publicly released. They also apologized for saying that the World of Tanks criticism video of the Chrysler K GF contained hate speech and homophobia. They acknowledged that the video did not contain such things.

Here is the full text of Wargaming's statement about the World of Tanks criticism video about the Chrysler K GF: "We have further reviewed the incident of last Friday involving SirFoch and his “Chrysler K GF rant” video, and know we could have handled the situation a lot better. We strongly support our players’, including our Community Contributors’, right to speak critically about us and our games. We acted too quickly and over the line when we threatened to have YouTube remove SirFoch’s video through a copyright infringement complaint and we are apologizing for that. We’re committed to doing a better job on this front. We’re going to improve the way we communicate with our Community and our Community Contributors, and as part of that effort we will work with them on more detailed, specific guidelines to help ensure incidents like this don’t happen again. Our official position is that Wargaming will not take copyright action against opinions based on our publicly released content. Over the weekend we released a statement to some media outlets regarding the content of SirFoch’s video that inferred that SirFoch’s videos contained hate speech and homophobia. While we would obviously not want such content to be associated with any of our games – this video clearly did not. We apologize for this statement, and we don't stand behind those claims. We love our players and our contributors – and we appreciate their honesty and commitment – we are committed to using this incident to grow and improve."

Now let's look at how Wargaming handled the SirFoch video in a horribly bad way. First, threatening to have a video pulled over copyright issues is not cool, especially if such action is only taken to quiet a dissenting view of the current direction of the mmofps. One wonders if the video would have been threatened to be taken down if it expressed admiration over the new Chrysler K GF tank, even if the salty language was still prevalent. (The likely answer to that thought is no.) Wargaming made the entire situation worse by lashing out, saying that SirFoch regularly used hate speech and homophobia in his videos. This was just pouring fuel on the fire, and it greatly impugned the integrity of someone who had been considered an asset to the game. As SirFoch was a World of Tanks community contributor in good standing, it's reasonable to assume that his videos had been watched by the developers for some time without any complaint. While they did issue an apology, the actual wording shows that the apology was only for the video of his World of Tanks criticism of the Chrysler K GF and not for any others.

One final aspect of how Wargaming handled the SirFoch video wrong is that they never address the issue he raised in the first place. The entire World of Tanks criticism was about how the game was releasing overpowered vehicles and forcing players to buy things in order to make the playing field somewhat level. Many players are saying that his criticisms are valid and that the game is definitely becoming pay-to-win. You would think that such a strong response by Wargaming would eventually have them discuss the topics raised in the offending video, but there's been nothing but silence concerning them. I would think that a game company would be working hard to reassure their players that the game wasn't hurtling down the pay-to-win path and was still fair to all players, free or otherwise.

Overall, Wargaming did handle the World of Tanks criticism by SirFoch very poorly. They tried to be heavy-handed and have the video removed, and they followed this up by accusing him of spouting hate speech. They do have the right to remove SirFoch as a World of Tanks community contributor, and they did do the right thing by stating that they would never seek to have videos removed over publicly released content. Still, they did sling some pretty bad mud right away, and they never addressed the pay-to-win concerns expressed by SirFoch as he blistered the Chrysler K GF tank in his video. Wargaming should have handled the entire situation a lot better.

Jun152017

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